Sunday 02 May 2010

Australia finds IWC Consensus Proposal unacceptable

In a recent letter to the AWCS, the Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett has given his assurance that the Australian Government intends to maintain its opposition to commercial whaling and 'scientific' whaling at the 2010 meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) scheduled for June.

In recent weeks the IWC Small Working Group for the Future of the IWC (SWG) released a Consensus Proposal that alarmed us all. The proposal calls for the cessation of scientific and reservation whaling for a ten-year period in return for IWC "catch limits". In other words, a return to commercial whaling [see News Article 25.04.10].

The AWCS recognises the polarized situation that the IWC has found itself in for more than a decade now. However, the resumption of IWC-sanctioned commercial whaling is too high a price to pay for breaking the deadlock.

Thankfully, the proposal is just that - one suggested way forward. And while Australia is a member of the SWG, it does not endorse the proposal.

As much as any other nation, Australia wishes to move forward. As Minister Garrett stated in speech to the Australian National University Centre for International & Public Law on 28 April, it is time to "shake off the shackles of perpetual dissension and take another big step forward, just as nations did when the moratorium was introduced a few short decades ago". But of the Consensus Proposal he stated, "Australia believes the proposal before us falls well short of any outcome that Australia could accept".

In the SWG and at the upcoming IWC meeting Australia will pursue its agenda for:
* phasing out of all whaling in the Southern Ocean;
* an end to all whaling in IWC-declared whale sanctuaries;
* the immediate cessation of whaling for species and populations classified as "vulnerable".

A key issue must be a review of cetacean research, focusing on the areas of greatest need and non-lethal methodologies.

There needs to be greater emphasis placed on climate change, entanglement, ship strike, poorly regulated whale watching and habitat degradation, all of which continue to threaten cetaceans globally.

In the meantime, the Government will continue its program of international collaboration initiatives, including the $32 million, six-year whale research and conservation program.


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